“One could argue that the villain is just as important as the hero,” booms the distinctive voice of narrator Christopher Lee as the October 25 releasing documentary “Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics” opens. Screened during the recently concluded Comic-Con International in San Diego, the film features dynamic pages of artwork showcasing the DCU’s top supervillains like The Joker, Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Sinestro, The Rogues, Doomsday and more as comic book creators, filmmakers, actors, and psychiatric experts discuss their impact and importance on the medium.
Lee’s voice closes the film out as well, declaring, “Without a hero there is no villain. Without a villain there is no hero.”
As the Joker’s laughter echoed in the room, the lights came up and the panelists were revealed, introduced by moderator Geoff Boucher. Filmmakers JM Kinney and Scott Devine, Robot Chicken writer and voice actor Kevin Shinick, Scott Porter, DC animated films director Andrea Romano, writer Geoff Johns, and psychiatrist Andrea Letamendi all took their seats and began discussing the role of supervillains.
This discussion opened with teach of hem naming their favorite supervillains in the DC Universe. Porter chose the collective membership of The Flash’s Rogues, while Shinick and Johns both said they specifically liked the Rogues’ leader, Captain Cold.
Shinick, who voiced Captain Cold in the Robot Chicken DC Special, joked that he liked the fact that the character “consciously decides to wear a hooded parka all year long,” adding that the collective group reminds him a lot of guys in a fraternity. “They couldn’t decide how to pay for the pizza, much less decide who gets to drive the killer car.”
Johns also appreciates the very blue-collar roots of this group of villains, but, he said, while they can be brutal and deadly, they do not necessarily have the mindset of being evil and have little love for those who are truly bad people. “They don’t like Darkseid just as much as they don’t like the heroes.”
Letamendi said she found The Joker to be the most fascinating of the villains. “I think about him a lot,” she said, elaborating further that his madness puts him in a league of his own, especially now the character is running around wearing the skin of his own face as a mask. “That’s just insane.”
Others on the panel found the most powerful of villains provided a much grander threat which makes the reader doubt the ability of the heroes to win. “The Anti-Monitor is just a force of nature. It takes all of the heroes just to beat him,” Devine said, adding that even with the combined forces of the heroes, you still wonder if they can beat him.
Romano finds herself drawn to the villains because of the voice work done by the actors in the animated movies and started listing off the names of the ones she enjoyed the most. “Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor, Mark Hamill as The Joker, Victor Garber as Sinestro, George Dzundza as The Ventriloquist,” Romano said, listing off some of her favorites. She told the audience that she often finds herself even more drawn to obscure villains because it allows the actors to shape them even more.
Speaking of distinctive voices, she said, “And just how cool is it that we got Christopher Lee to narrate this documentary?”
“I must admit that I am drawn to Lex Luthor,” Kinney said. “He’s got a good suit and money. I just love the way he dresses and composes himself!”
Johns said he considered Batman, The Flash and Spider-Man to have the best rogues gallery of all the heroes. Shinick agreed, especially when it came to the Caped Crusader. “I don’t know if you can touch Batman’s rogues gallery.”
Johns said even the corniest of villains can become real threats, even ones like Kite-Man, before adding with a laugh, “Except Angle Man — that one you can’t fix.”
Shinick said the simplicity of the villains in their motivations can often be the strength of their characters. “If you can sum them up in one word,” he said, it makes them more identifiable characters to readers. “For example, Mr. Freeze can be summed up by the word ‘love.'”
“Everything he is doing is for the woman he loves,” Devine agreed. Because of that, you can feel for him.”
Johns said Sinestro also fits the mold of a villain who does not see themselves as a villain. For Sinestro, everything he does is just a means to an end to bring order to the universe.
Letamendi also found another villain to be one who is not the villain in their own personal outlook. “My first thought was Poison Ivy,” she said. “She is trying to protect the environment.”
For many of the panelists it was the origin story of the villain that drew them to the character.
“Oswald Cobblepot has a fascinating backstory,” Letamendi said. She talked about how the character grew up being brutally picked on by those around him, and how that caused him to draw away from other people and begin to relate to animals. “You can understand him.”
Porter found the sibling rivalry between superhero Starfire and her sister’s Blackfire’s villainous actions to also be relatable. “When you have a sibling who is better than you it makes you feel like the ugly duckling,” he said. “We have all felt that way.”
Sometimes, it’s just the sheer menace a villain exudes that makes them scary. Porter recalled seeing a cover with Darkseid on it in which he was standing at the back of a ship. “The overwhelming power of the character (on that cover) is just scary,” Porter said.